No More ArtWritingLife

WordPress is hounding me to renew my old domain, ArtWritingLife. They say

The domain artwritinglife.com will expire on Sunday, July 18, 2021. Visitors to artwritinglife.com will not see “Steve Campbell”.

That is true. I have a new domain, stevenlcampbell.com, which I created last year. Both domains take you to this website/blog. I suppose that if you signed up to follow my site via artwritinglife.com, you will get a notice after July 18 that the site is no longer available. The easy remedy is to visit/follow me via stevenlcampbell.com.

My apologies for any confusion and/or problems this may cause. I simply wanted a domain that reflected my name in it. I chose it because I published books under Steven L. Campbell and that is the name that pops up in many searches. However, I now publish as Steve Campbell, the name I published my artwork under.

Bottom line is, I am still at WordPress and easy to find.

Peace and love, everyone. Have a great day.

Feeling the Rain

A year ago today, I was rushed into emergency surgery that saved my life from a perforated bowel.

During my weeklong stay at the hospital—first in a recovery room, then in a 24-hour observation room where my nurses kept watch for sepsis, I spent a lot of time alone. Covid restrictions allowed me one visitor, which was my wife who had to travel almost 40 miles to see me. When she and my nurses were not with me, I entertained by visiting the internet via my phone and perusing art and writing sites. One night, I found a long quote—perhaps a poem—by Walt Whitman about his desire to be closer to animals and nature. Being a wildlife artist for many years, I felt akin to that desire. So, with pen and paper, I jotted down a couple lines about animal life that intrigued me.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition, they do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins. Not one is unhappy over the whole earth.

The words took me back to the years I studied wildlife. Animal lives seemed so basic, so simple, which led me to practicing a similar simple life. My main purpose then was to care for my children. Although employment stole time from us, it gave me enough income to acquire necessities to keep them healthy and safe.

My children were long grown and raising families of their own when I left the hospital to finish recuperating at home. What had my purpose in life become? To grow old and die?

Beyond making purpose for a corporation by my employment to it, I decided to make purpose for me again. So I retired from the workforce and did a lot of soul searching for what I wanted to do.

I have been an artist—a good artist—most of my life. It brought me awards and recognition beyond my desires. And it brought me to a crossroad where I no longer felt challenged by it. So I spent the winter and most of spring looking at things that challenge me most.

One of my biggest challenges is writing well, mostly because I suffer a form of dyslexia that has hindered me most of my life. When I write well—and by that I mean something that reads coherently and moves my emotions long after I wrote it—the experience is an uplifting one, much like depicted in the illustration above.

I want to feel the rain when I write. And I want to feel it when I read it. That is my newfound purpose in life.

It will talk as long as it wants, the rain. As long as it talks I am going to listen. —Thomas Merton

Macroscopic Death [poetry reblog]

Faces fading like new literature,
soft and pale,
sink into the quicksand of poverty.
Their government turned their dollars into pennies.
One hundred George Washingtons won’t buy a fistfight today.
But a hundred Ben Franklins can get you murdered…
Franklin kicks Washington’s ass every time.

But whose city park does big Ben stand in?
Philadelphia?
Tiananmen Square?
DC, where the crackle of old flesh inside the White House
grows loud above the vomiting whispers from a Chinese whorehouse
fronting the CCP,
UN,
and WTO?

Oblivious,
Washington’s carved face remains proud and noble
in his green erection
where he stands alone in the town park I sit at.
Alabaster pigeon poop covers his broad shoulders.
Cell phones twitter at his feet with news that does not educate;
a horror brought about by the theft of a billion gold Franklins
when our infected financiers sold America at the First World War
for a hero’s seat at Versailles.

Washington died the day Franklin was fitted as bridegroom
for the multiple marriage of our country to the World Bank,
to OPEC,
to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development,
to the World Economic Forum,
to the World Council of Churches,
to the World Health Organization,
for unity by assimilation
for control by one government worldwide.

Revisiting Characters

Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations. ― Ray Bradbury

I was absent from my blog during May and most of June while I buckled down and continued preparations for the new and updated books I have planned for my Amazon KDP library. Part of those preparations is making sure my characters come across as people.

My stories happen in a place called Ridgewood, loosely based on places I have lived. Overall, the place is a straightforward small town in America where odd things happen to a select few. There is a plethora of history and information about Ridgewood at this blog, so go ahead and browse the archives.

I enjoy writing my own kind of fantasy fiction. My ensemble of characters is wholly my own creation loosely based on archetypes that attracted me as a reader. Again, there is a plethora of history and information about them at this blog, but there have been three significant changes I want to address.

  1. I have renamed Owen to Lenny and given the name to his kid brother. Lenny has taken on his old role and has the old persona of teenager Dave. He has a twin sister, Gaylene, who is Amy with a different name and family.
  2. Vree’s hometown is New Cambridge. She lives in Ridgewood when she stays with her paternal grandparents. Her parents are archeologists at New Cambridge University and are away from home often. Vree has no interest in archeology. Her paternal grandparents have the names Dave and Amy now and are not retired and living in Florida.
  3. Amy’s grandparents are Ben and Vera, the couple killed by a witch named Margga who has become Gianna. Ben and Vera’s last name is Russell, and Myers Ridge is now Russell Ridge.

My renamed cast has been a joy to place on stage and see them rehearse while I put them through the rigors of developing plot. As always, I let my characters develop the plot while I pay attention to the three main factors of characterization: the physical, sociological, and psychological. That’s all any writer needs to know to create characters that have personalities. Once you have that, then you understand how your characters approach and resolve conflict. And that means living with your characters, observing them while you put them through mock scenarios, and noting the results.

Vree is one of my star characters. She has been with me since I was fourteen years old. She has always been a shy, humble teenager.

vree-13-pencil-9x12-v6
Vree

No matter how much I try to change her personality, it stays relatively the same. I suppose this flies in the face of teachers of fiction who say that our characters must be different people after departing Act 1 and arriving at the conclusion of Act 3. How much change is rarely specified, but I cannot see her becoming an entirely different character when she rides her story’s denouement. I think any person whose personality changes that much during their story should be under psychiatric observation by the time it ends. That was a problem I had with many horror novels. The characters we got to know did not ring true when they became monsters.

Realism is an important aspect of good fiction. And just as in life, a person’s mode of thinking can change dramatically under the right circumstances. But a person with a healthy brain is not going to become someone with a different personality just because a book publisher wants it for mass market appeal and sensationalism. Abrupt change of character isn’t normal.

Every good story I have ever read has one major real aspect: Desire. The goal is to acquire something. The more unreachable it is, the difficult the task. The comedian George Carlin described acquisition as a football game. The goal is to acquire yardage to the end zone and score points to be ahead of the opponent when time runs out. Smart players achieve this by fooling their opponent, making them second guess their game plan, getting them to trip over their weaknesses. Everyone has desires/goals and we all have flaws to overcome in our efforts to get what we want.

All in all, a deep understanding of character is the key to creating better plots.

Thanks for reading.

Peace and love, everyone.

Old Dog, New Tricks In May

I’m back in the saddle with my KDP book projects, getting ready to publish my books again at Amazon. I spent the past month learning new publishing techniques that will help ease the burden of being an indie author who self-publishes their books.

First among the list was learning the latest Microsoft Word program after I replaced 2010 with 365. The learning curve was small on that, which carried me onto Amazon’s latest version of Kindle Create. Again, the curve wasn’t too difficult since I last used the program five years ago.

Next on my list was learning to use Inkscape so I can create my book covers for paperback books. I usually use MS Word and an old PhotoDeluxe program for that, but I wanted to learn something new. The curve on that is big, so I’ve been watching YouTube tutorials to ease the process. I have a college BA degree in graphic design that I received in 1990, so I’m a relic when it comes to all the gadgets and their bells and whistles in the digital age. Don’t let me get started on all my failures while using Photoshop twenty years ago. The program was Grand Canyon huge and clunkier than my grandfather’s Model A Ford back then, so I got rid of it and settled on its streamlined and swifter little brother, PhotoDeluxe. Inkscape doesn’t seem as difficult as Photoshop but has plenty of bells and whistles.

During all this excitement, I replaced my Win7 laptop with a Win10 one. I spent a weekend moving files and learning 10’s shortcuts. It was funny when the computer connected to my old 2007 Hotmail account and wanted to use it as my primary email. I’ve been using Gmail for a decade and I forgot all about my Hotmail account after I transferred all my contacts to Gmail ten years ago. It was funny and a little bewildering to see my face from 2007 on my computer’s sign-in screen. Ah, the old gray hair isn’t what it used to be.

In between writing, prepping my books for publication, and getting comfortable with Win10, MS Word 365, and Inkscape, I decided to dive into the deep end of the author pool by downloading Scrivener version 3. More tutorials at YouTube helped me with its steep learning curve and I enjoyed how easy it was to create ebooks and paperbacks ready to send to Amazon’s KDP.

As if I wasn’t busy enough, I created a new author logo.

I plan to use this on my book covers to give them a unique look. I’m tired of seeing plain fonts on covers, so the artist in me took over during one of my book cover design sessions. Although the one pictured is red, I can use any color.

As an experiment, I threw this cover together for the first ebook at my KDP website.

I made it with MS Word and PhotoDeluxe—my old standby method—but I’ll probably use a cover built on Inkscape when I actually publish the book.

So, there you have it, my busy month of May in less than 1000 words.

Have a great June and stay safe.

Peace and love!

Apple Orchard [poetry repost]

Apple Orchard
Apple Orchard, Oil Painting

In small acreage on a hilly clearing,
Sunny morning shines golden on chalky-pink blossoms;
I pause and prolong my hike to watch sunbeams lick away dewdrops
Soaking in shaded greenery of an apple orchard.

Craggy, crabby branches nod jaggedly at a breeze dashing across the way;
Wasps complain from gray papery hives swaying above me;
A hummingbird pauses and peeks inside a blossom—
Perhaps she smells the jellies, pies and cider clearly on my mind.

I head away on journey once more,
Longing to return and sample ripe fruit from the trees.

© 2006

Slap Happy [comic strip]

This comic strip is the last of my recent finds from the 1980s. It’s a large-format comic from December 1982 and it features a rarity in the world of Louie & Bruce. It shows the guys in class at their local community college.

l&b 1982-12 v2 1200x900 100dpi

I hope you enjoyed this run of rarities from the past.

Changes [comic strip]

This is it!

This is the 1982 Louie & Bruce strip showing the day when the boys lost the sawmill—their place of employment for over a year (in actual human years; time runs wibbly-wobbly-whacky in cartoon worlds).

Writing and drawing large, multi-panel strips were fun because of the room they allowed for storytelling, which was good practice for me to sharpen my writing skills—especially writing dialogue.

Unfortunately, newspapers only ran multi-panel strips on Sundays; the rest of the week was reserved for shorter strips. You could call them the “Flash Fiction” strips of the comic world. My story strips were a hard sell to local newspapers, and a harder sell to syndication outfits.

Meanwhile, back at my little studio, I drew another multi-panel strip after this one, which featured the boys at their community college. I’ll include that one in my next post.

Until then, peace and love!

10-Year Blogging Anniversary

I received notice last week from the good people at WordPress that my blog reached its 10-year mark.

Happy Anniversary, dear blog.

I recall when I began chiseling its foundation in January all those years ago, publishing my first post in February, and getting my first follower. I received many more followers in the next ten months, and I eagerly followed my followers, we commenting back and forth, and I feeling like a new tenant of part of a happy community. Sadly, I no longer hear from those bloggers. Two of the blogs from 2011 are in limbo and haven’t shown activity in several years; the rest of my followers of that year are no longer around.

All the same, it has been a fun ride and I haven’t run out of things to post! Here’s to ten more years.

John Sells the Mill [comic strip]

It’s August 1982 and the boys find out that the owner of the sawmill is selling and moving to Florida. Life for Louie and Bruce is changing. Oh my!

But this strip never made it to publication. None of the large format strips that I drew in 1982 did. I turned to 3- and 4-panel strips that year, which put this little gem in a drawer and then lost over the years until recently when I found some old boxes in my basement.

Two more large panel strips are coming, as soon as I digitize them and clean them up.

I hope this comic strip manages a chuckle or two, despite the jab at Florida at the end.

Until my next post, peace and love everybody. And for my readers who still follow my blog, I am still busy getting my Vree Erickson books back into publication with Amazon. More on that later this year.

Rude Awakening [comic strip]

I spent January away from WordPress while I worked on some art and writing projects. Since retirement from my 9-to-5 job, I’ve been busy planning to republish my books at Amazon and setting up a workspace so I can paint again.

Last week, I found more Louie and Bruce comic strips. Two were heavily damaged from age because I didn’t draw them on archival paper. They were test runs of ideas and were never published. But they were always a part of the Louie and Bruce storyline.

So, I cleaned them up on my computer with barely any difficulty. The first one, which is from January 1982, is today’s featured post. It shows our friend Louie having a dream. The figures (except Louie) in the dream are out of focus. I illustrated those characters by using broad strokes to minimize detail. They are secondary people in Louie’s life during his first year as a student at his community college. He dreams of being someone important to them, perhaps a desire to overcome his insecurities.

The other characters were based on models from a fashion catalog. By the way, plaid shirts and blouses were popular apparel for women in the early 1980s. And a lot of “tough guys” wore sleeveless shirts.

I’ll probably post the rest of my finds in the days to come, but I don’t want to take too much time away from my projects. Until then, peace and love.

A Louie and Bruce Christmas Surprise [comic strip]

While going through more boxes in storage, I found this Louie & Bruce comic strip among my papers from teaching cartooning to kids years ago … I think it was 1988.

I know … I thought I had finished writing about my old strip, but chance and fate had other plans.

With Christmas five days away, this strip fits with the season.

This comic strip is unique because I’m not the sole author. While teaching, I had my students help write the strip by first calling out ideas and then dialogue. This way, they saw the strip grow from beginning to end.

I’m not sure why we chose Christmas and Santa for a theme during a summer class, but the theme was fun to work with and caused a lot of laughter and excitement in the classroom … especially the idea of Louie sitting on Santa’s lap as if he were still a little boy.

Merry Christmas everybody, and Happy Holidays.